What is Dreamhack?
When sharing my growing excitement about leaving for Austin to go to Dreamhack 2018, I was met with lots of questions, mainly, “What on earth is that?” Well it’s still very new to our neck of the woods, as this is only the 3rd year that they’ve hosted their events in North America. So, it’s totally understandable that even though Dreamhack is a multimillion dollar company who has an insane reputation for putting on some of the most impressive gaming events ever, people are in the US have no idea who they are. To give just a quick rundown without getting into all of the hairy details, Dreamhack was founded nearly 25 years ago in Sweden (1994). Since then, they have grown to the point where in 2017 alone they hosted 11 of these massive events across 6 different countries. Dreamhack specializes in trying to bring all different aspects of the gaming community together as one so that there’s something for everyone. Just a few of these events include tournaments (for video games and collectible card games), arcade games, cosplay, speed running, indie game testing, live music, and a whole bunch more. The event is centered around a “Bring Your Own Computer” LAN party that is open 24 hours a day throughout the entire event. While doing all of these different things, they also create an inviting environment to test out and get involved with other activities that you may not have ever tried but have always been curious about.
Dreamhack US is a Learning Process
Dreamhack has been a wild success everywhere in the world. I believe that a huge part of this success is due to their attention to feedback given and their willingness to make changes based upon the wants and needs of the specific community each event is anchored in. This was entirely evident in the differences shown from Dreamhack Austin 2017 to Dreamhack Austin 2018. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend both events so I was able to see firsthand just how dedicated they are to making this event be the absolute best that it can be.
In 2017, I noticed that most of the major events and main stages were centered around the game League of Legends. While League is personally my favorite game, it didn’t give very much variety for those who were interested in other games as well. There was also a multitude of vendors basically all selling the same types of things. At this particular event, if you wanted to get involved in any of the activities at all, you really had to plan your time accordingly because everything was on a set schedule, so it wasn’t really a come and go as you please sort of thing. Due to this, my group and I ended up missing out on a lot of the fun things that Dreamhack had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a blast, but we were just a little bummed that we didn’t pay close enough attention to the schedule. Another key thing with the 2017 event was that they had live music every night, and the stage was very close to the BYOC LAN area, so even if you were not interested in the music, you were definitely going to hear it anyway because you were so close to it. So while the event itself was definitely a success, it was clear that there was lots of room for improvements.
For 2018, it was very evident that Dreamhack had taken into account all of the feedback from the previous year’s attendees and made some major changes. This year, there were competitive stages set up for multiple games including CS:GO, PUBG, Rainbow 6 Siege, StarCraft, and a Main stage that was more suited to switching the setup depending on which event was going on. In addition to all of this, they cleared out a lot of the vendors to make room for more activities that people were free to experience as they wanted to, without having to stick to a restrictive schedule. These included the indie games playground and the free play arcade. There was still a schedule of events, but everything was much easier to just walk up and experience even if you hadn’t looked at the schedule. Another major improvement was that they kept all of the live music to one night, and had the stage further away from the BYOC LAN area, so people who wanted to enjoy it could go over and do so, but not everyone was hearing bass thumping in the background every single night. Basically, this event had a much wider variety of gaming interests present that allowed many more people to feel included and welcome, and they also did a lot to clean up some of the other concerns that had been lingering from 2017.
Technical Difficulties at Dreamhack Austin 2018
Now we get to talking about some of the more chaotic aspects of this year’s event. Starting on the very first day, anyone who had their computers in the LAN area were beginning to get extremely frustrated due to power outages in certain rows and internet outages for everyone else. These happened frequently throughout the entire weekend and people were getting pretty irate. At the very beginning, the Dreamhack team was not giving very much communication as to what was going on. Looking back, it seemed to me that they believed it was going to be a quick fix and they would have everyone back up and online with no problems for the rest of their event, but once they realized that this would not be the case, they took full force to social media making a public apology for not being as effective as they could with their communication, and that they would be much better about that moving forward. Dreamhack staff did an amazing job keeping to their word on that statement, not only keeping people updated on what was going on through social media, but they did an amazing job of keeping in contact with everyone on their discord server to let them know what was going on as they got more information. As it turned out, there was an issue with the venue itself that needed to be resolved. Apparently they had a faulty transformer that was causing the issues when so much power was being sent through it.
While there were many people who were outspoken about their displeasure in these technical difficulties and they did affect the tournament schedules, they did not by any means ruin the event. My personal row was only affected by the internet outages. When we couldn’t connect to the internet, we were still able to play games together over LAN, which is what LAN parties are meant for anyway. I did get to talk with some of the people who were affected by the actual power going out on their rows and they didn’t seem to think that it was detrimental to the event’s success either. Jordan, from the UNT League of Legend’s collegiate team made the statement that “The power outages really weren’t too bad aside from the fact that the tournament got delayed. Overall it was pretty negligible and didn’t hinder my experience much. Dreamhack was pretty fantastic, getting to meet all of the new people experience the games in a new way was pretty wild. When the power outages were happening we just got to sit down as a team and talk so it wasn’t all that bad. All in all, the blackouts weren’t a huge hindrance to my experience at Dreamhack, just a minor bump in the road”
Dreamhack was also given the opportunity to continue to back up their word on being more communicative when the entire BYOC LAN area had to be evacuated due to reports of a suspicious package. SWAT showed up with sniffing dogs and we were told that a suspect package was removed from the area and we were allowed to go back inside to pack up and leave. This happened right before the event was scheduled to end, and in order to make sure everyone was able to pack up and exit properly, they extended Dreamhack by an extra hour. While it was frustrating, these things happen and everyone was safe and able to get back to their belongings. During this time, the Dreamhack employees were extremely active on the discord server, interacting with those venting their frustrations and also keeping us up to date with relevant information. They even continued to maintain contact after the event had ended and communicated that the suspicious package found was a block of Styrofoam wrapped in duct tape with the word “bomb” written across it. When the box was found, they were required to go through official protocol of contacting the authorities. We were told that they are close to figuring out who was behind making this and will be opening an official investigation.
Dreamhack was Still an Amazing Event
My own personal takeaway from Dreamhack Austin 2018 was that it was another wonderful experience and I can’t wait to go again next year. I was elated to actually get to participate in different events this year and do a little bit more exploring. On the first day, I got to participate in the Magic: the Gathering’s Two-headed Giant event with my roommate and those are always a good time. I also got to play in the Mini-master’s event the next day, which I thought was a great thing to have because personally, I’m new to Magic and it was nice to have an opportunity to play and get to know the game a little bit better without feeling loads of pressure to know exactly what I was doing. On Friday night we got to see Pegboard Nerds and Krewella perform on the main stage which had been previously used for a competitive Rocket League event earlier in the day. They put on an amazing show, and the people in charge of the sound and lighting did a great job of properly making use of the stage and space that they were given. Another event that my friends and I were able to take part of was the League of Legends BYOC tournament, and somehow we managed to take 3rd place. The tournament did get delayed a bit due to the power and internet outages, but during that time we got to meet the other teams that we were up against and had a really great time getting to know them. We even got to watch our new friends play and win the collegiate grudge match on the main stage after they got done thoroughly destroying us in the BYOC tournament.
In addition to those specific events, we got to wander around and test out some indie games, including a new virtual reality game which was pretty incredible to do for the first time. I was also filled with joy that I got to catch a bit of the Spyro the Dragon speed run while I was walking around, as Spyro is one of my very favorite game series. All in all, Dreamhack was everything you could want from a gaming event. We got to join together with people who share the same passions as us, experience new things that we were curious about, and make new friends that we probably would have never gotten to meet elsewhere. I plan on going to Dreamhack every year that we have it here in Texas, and you can be sure that I’ll be buying my tickets as early as possible again next year.